Monday, June 25, 2007

Purity of Intention

1. Purity of intention consists in doing the will of God in all things from the motive of pure love. We should not be egocentric, but theocentric; in other words, we should perform all our actions, not for our own satisfaction, but to please God. Since God is our final end, everything should be done for Him. Why are we so often agitated and discontented? It is because we are looking for success and for the approval of men. If we do not get these, we imagine that we have failed and have accomplished nothing.

Men judge the value of an enterprise by its external success and by the amount of work which went into it. It is not so with God. He judges the value of our actions from the sincerity of our desire to please Him and to prove our love for Him. This is enough for Him; success is not necessary. If we do everything for the love of God, we shall always be content as the Saints were, whether our projects succeed or fail. We shall have achieved our purpose if we have pleased God.

Purity of intention in our actions is fundamental in the Christian life. If thy eye be sound, Jesus Himself tells us, thy whole body will be full of life. But if thy eye be evil, thy whole body will he full of darkness. (Mt. 6:22) Man seeth those things that appear; but the Lord beholdeth the heart. (I Kings 16:7)

A man who works solely for the love of God will have great peace of soul in this life and an everlasting reward in the next. But if in our actions we seek our own satisfaction or the praise of men, we shall have already received our reward on earth and cannot expect to receive it in Heaven. They have received their reward. (Mt. 6:2)

Purity of intention, inspired by the love of God, transforms even our most trivial actions and makes them pleasing to God. Without it we lose all merit in the sight of God.

Do you remember the Gospel incident of the poor widow who offered her last two coins in the Temple ? Others were there offering up large sums of money, but she could not have given more. Amen I say to you, said Jesus, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. (Mk. 12:41-44)

2. St. Alphonsus indicates the signs by which we can judge whether our actions are performed from the pure intention of pleasing God. (1) The first sign is that you are not disturbed when your projects are unsuccessful, but retain the same composure as if you had succeeded. This will be the case when you are working for God alone, so that once you realise that God has not desired your efforts to succeed, you no longer desire it either. You know that He is not concerned with the outcome of your work, but only with whether you have undertaken it with the purpose of pleasing Him. (2) The second proof is that you are as pleased with the good which is worked by means of others as if it had been achieved through you. (3) The third sign is that you do not long for one position rather than another, but are content with whatever Providence has arranged for you, so that you seek- only to please God in everything which you do. (4) The final proof is that you do not look for approval or gratitude because of your good actions. If you are not appreciated or are ill-treated in any way, you retain your peace of mind because you have already achieved your purpose, which was to please God by working for love of Him. (Cf. Al Divino Servizio II, 7)

3. Principles:

God alone is deserving of all our love.

We should do everything which we should wish to have done at the hour of death.

We should live on earth as if nothing else existed but God and ourselves. (Ibid)